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Market update: Leveraging opportunities in a volatile economy

June 10, 2024

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By Wael Mohammed, Field Nation EVP of Strategy

With the economy in constant flux, new field service challenges and opportunities are always emerging. Ongoing inflation, the high cost of capital, and weakening consumer discretionary spending are instilling a sense of caution as businesses face these headwinds. However, the industry remains resilient, with tailwinds from strong retail store openings and technological advancements as organizations invest and grow in focused areas. Now more than ever, businesses need proactive, targeted strategies to thrive in this environment.

Let’s take a closer look at the key factors influencing the market in the second half of 2024 and beyond.

Tailwinds drive market expansion

Better than expected macroeconomic performance

Despite the high cost of capital and ongoing concerns about a potential recession, the U.S. economy is performing better than expected. Economists have reduced the chances of a recession to 29%, according to a recent Wall Street Journal survey. Overall consumer confidence remains strong, driving retail sales up by 0.7% in March. Employment also continues to exceed expectations, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting the addition of 303,000 jobs

Rising store openings and remodels

The retail industry is experiencing an uptick in new store openings and remodels, with major retailers like Walmart and Academy Sports leading the way. This trend extends beyond stores to include distribution centers, warehouses, and logistics facilities, creating significant opportunities for field services work in areas such as:

  • Fiber and copper cabling
  • Networking infrastructure
  • Wireless networking
  • Sensors and cameras
  • Access control systems
  • Point of sale systems
  • Digital signage and interactive kiosks

Focused growth in IT spending

Businesses are strategically targeting their tech budgets, investing in areas that promise efficiency and long-term benefits. Investment remains strong in data centers, driven by increased demand for cloud services, data storage, and AI capabilities. Additionally, robotics and automation technologies are receiving significant attention as businesses seek to enhance operational efficiency and reduce labor costs.

The National Retail Federation identifies retail theft as a $112 billion problem, leading to rapid growth in physical security technology, such as IP cameras and access control systems. Also, the A/V segment is poised for ongoing growth with investments in interactive kiosks, digital signage, and advanced conference room setups for hybrid workforces.

Other areas experiencing robust growth include Wi-Fi 7 to support higher bandwidth needs and the expansion of 5G infrastructure, which ensures constant connectivity and supports the increasing reliance on digital and automated systems. These investments highlight a trend toward leveraging technology to streamline operations and improve overall business resilience.

Headwinds pressure business investments

“Higher for longer” inflation and cost of capital 

Inflation remains a significant challenge, with overall inflation at 3.4% and services inflation elevated at 5.4%. The “higher for longer” interest rate environment is leading to a cautious spending approach, the deferral of some field service projects, and a careful watch on retail season forecasts. Instead of making broad investments, companies are targeting high-growth areas and initiatives that boost profitability through lower labor costs and increased automation. 

Growing consumer financial pressure

Financial pressures on consumers are increasing, particularly among low-income groups. Credit card delinquencies have risen to 8.9%, and total household debt has reached a record $17.5 trillion. The household savings rate has decreased to 4.51%, significantly lower than the historical average of 8.48% between 1959 and 2024, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Recent earnings reports from major retailers highlight this trend, with consumers shifting their spending away from discretionary items and toward essentials like groceries. These trends indicate that consumer spending power is diminishing in some areas, which could further impact business revenues and economic stability.

Skilled labor shortage

While the unemployment rate remains steady, the field services industry continues to grapple with a skilled labor shortage. Within the tech sector, the unemployment rate for tech occupations decreased to 2.8% in April, reflecting positive job gains in tech services, software development, and cloud infrastructure.

However, Gen Z is emerging as the “toolbelt generation,” showing increased interest in skilled trades, which may alleviate some labor market pressures in the future.

Strategic considerations for field service leaders

Field service leaders need to adopt strategic approaches to navigate this complex landscape.

Know your customer: Take a surgical approach when analyzing the market, focusing on micro-segments to identify which are growing, shrinking, or stagnant. Develop a deep understanding of customer priorities within these market segments. Even companies within the same industry can perform differently and have distinct needs. Tailoring your services to these specific needs is a must for staying competitive in this environment. 

Focus on driving efficiency: Deliver value to customers by demonstrating how your services can enhance efficiency and profitability in their prioritized areas of investment. 

Embrace flexible talent: Take advantage of hybrid, flexible talent solutions to adapt quickly to market changes. This flexibility hedges against volatility and ensures readiness for emerging opportunities. By leveraging on-demand labor, businesses can better manage fluctuations in demand and respond swiftly to evolving customer needs and market dynamics.

Adapt and thrive with on-demand labor

Stay ahead in the rapidly changing field service landscape by leveraging on-demand labor. Connect with our team to explore how Field Nation can empower you to navigate market volatility and meet evolving customer demands.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Wael Mohammed

Wael Mohammed has been in the technology industry for three decades. He has held leadership roles in startups and large enterprises, including SPS Commerce, IBM, and Target. Wael is currently the Executive Vice President of Product Management & Strategy at Field Nation, and oversees strategy, product management, product design, and data science. He is a master in identifying product and market growth opportunities, taking new products to market, and maximizing product performance.

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